It’s normal to be scared when you encounter a bear in the wild. The truth is, most bear encounters only escalate to bear attacks when you immediately try to fight them. Most bears would rather avoid contact with humans, and they’re probably as frightened as you are.
Here’s a guide to staying safe in the woods around bears!
Know Your Hike
Before hiking or camping, understand what type of wildlife is native to the area you are going to. There are bears that can be more dangerous than others. Knowing your hike will help you stay on the trail and away from areas with higher densities of wildlife.
Another thing to take note of to stay safe around bears is to find an open area for the campsite that will not bother the bears. Never store food or items with strong odors near, and especially within, your tent. Bear proof containers are available at many camping stores.
One important thing to do is to find out what the regulations are in the bear country that you’re going to visit. These are going to differ from park to park.
If You See a Bear
Once you see a bear and they notice you, here are some strategies you need to prevent the situation from escalating.
First, stay calm as a way to tell the beat that you are a human being and not a prey animal. Remain still and stand your ground while slowly waving your arms. Remember that most bears do not want to attack you, they just want to be left alone. Bears may also react defensively by wooﬁng, yawning, salivating, growling, snapping their jaws, and laying their ears back. Continue to talk to the bear in low tones so they won’t get threatened. Never scream, squeal, move suddenly, or imitate bear sounds.
If you have small children with you, pick them up immediately. If the bear is not moving, move away slowly and sideways. But if they follow, stop. They can run as fast as a racehorse and will chase you. Do not climb a tree since grizzlies and black bears can climb as well.
As soon as things get okay, leave the area immediately.
Surviving a Bear Attack
Bears rarely attack. They only do this when a person encounters a protective so with cubs, when the bear is surprised or startled, when you get too close to their food, or when the bear is predatory. Watch this video to see how a bear defensively attacks.
If the bear tries to attack you, play dead. Only play dead after they have made contact with you. Lie on your stomach with your legs apart and position your arms so they are crossed behind your neck.
Stay with your pack and stay still until the bear leaves. These defensive attacks are generally less than two minutes in duration. The bear may bite you and walk away. If the attack continues, it may mean it has shifted from defensive to predatory. This is the only time you should fight back.
Here’s how to play dead around a grizzly.
Using Bear Spray
When it’s time to fight, using a bear spray will become very helpful. It is used to stop an aggressive bear. Although it’s used in the same way you would use mace on an attacking person, bear pepper spray and human pepper spray are not the same. Go for an EPA approved product that is specifically designed to stop aggressive bears. It is not a repellent so do not apply to your body or equipment.